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June 14, 2024

Copyright: Chris Lamphear

Care to share?

The DoT published the December On-Time dataset, and we updated our models. We share the data showing the country’s most delayed airports as part of that process.

We focus on delayed arrivals as the critical metric – the destination matters most.  If a passenger has to hub along the way, the airplane change is an opportunity for a misconnection.

For perspective, this is the traffic volume from 2017 through 2023 for the Top 20 US airports.

DoT AirInsight

And this is what arrival delays look like by airline.

DoT AirInsight

If we use the DoT’s 15-minute rule, things look (sort of) acceptable overall.  But we don’t think the 15-minute rule means much. Because airline costs run as long as the flight takes, look at the post-pandemic trend. In 2023, the data report the worst arrival numbers for the period.

Taxi times vary slightly over the period. The trend is not encouraging.

DoT AirInsight

Next, here is the arrival delay trend for the domestic system.  Again, it is not an encouraging trend.

DoT AirInsight

The charts make it clear the system had a great pandemic in operational terms. But coming out of the recovery, arrival delays got worse fast.

Finally, a word about schedule padding: airlines are “creative” in tweaking schedules to appear “on-time”.  We added a model to work with to allow a reader to get the whole picture.  This creativity comes at a cost to the traveler, whose time is considered free and fungible. If you have ever read a contract of carriage, you know you have very say in anything or any recourse.

One item in favor of the traveler is that airlines bleed cash at alarming rates when they run behind schedule, with no regard for the DoT’s 15-minute leeway.  We covered this earlier this year with some compelling data. Essentially, the US airline industry runs at ~$107/minute.  Every minute behind schedule is lost and cannot be recovered. If a traveler’s time bears no cost, at least the traveler has comfort knowing the airline is paying hard money for every delayed minute. Only by paying for this delay can we expect airlines to be incentivized to improve their operational efficiencies.

Here is the list of arrival delays for the Top 25 US airports.  Green means low delays, and red indicates high delays. The order on the list should be no surprise.  What should surprise you is the 2023 results. The number of airports in red is growing.  Notice the number of minutes changing from year to year.

DoT AirInsight
author avatar
Addison Schonland
Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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